Tortured into admitting they’re Abu Sayyaf, Moro detainees yearn for freedom

They were arrested without a warrant and tortured to admit to being members of the Abu Sayyaf. And they have been suffering in jail for years while the wheels of justice move slowly.


CAMP BAGONG DIWA, Taguig City — On March 30, 2002, Kosair Muner slept at his brother’s house in Zamboanga City. At around 2:30 a.m., he was awakened by shouts of men ordering them to go down from the second floor of the house.

Kosair rose and saw four armed men in civilian clothes at the stairs. The men pointed their guns at them and ordered them to lie face down on the floor. Their hands were then tied behind their backs. The men searched the house. A few minutes later, the brothers were forced into a vehicle and were brought to the headquarters of the Southern Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Zamboanga City.

For three days, Kosair, who was then a 16-year-old high-school student, his younger brother Taufic Muner, 14, a Grade 6 pupil and his older brother Baser Madjerer, a government employee in Cotabato City, suffered severe beatings from the soldiers. The soldiers were insisting that the brothers were members of the kidnap-for-ransom group Abu Sayyaf.

At 12 noon each day, Moro detainees at Camp Bagong Diwa pause to pray. (Photo by Mario Ignacio)

Kosair is one of nearly 200 Moro prisoners detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. While the government is accusing them of terrorism, what happened to them are clear examples of state terrorism.

Bimbas Abubakar was only 14 when he was arrested on October 10, 2001. He was buying some school supplies at a store in Isabela City, Basilan, for a school project when two armed men in camouflage uniforms suddenly grabbed him by the shoulders and forced him inside a Jeep-like vehicle. Eight other men were inside the vehicle. Bimbas was punched, his hands were tied and he was blindfolded. A few minutes later, he was brought to the military camp of the 103rd Brigade of the Philippine Army, also in Basilan. There, he suffered torture.

Eighteen days later, Bimbas was brought to the Basilan Provincial Jail and was charged with kidnapping. Like Kosair, he is being accused of being a member of the Abu Sayyaf. He was eventually transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in July 2002.

“My life has been ruined. It pains me that I am accused of something I did not commit,” Bimbas told

Seven students of Islam at Alfarouq Islamic Institute in Puerto Princesa, Palawan were taken by the military in four rounds of arrests in September 2007.

Ibrahim Misuari, Aisal Jala, Omar Panagas, Omar Ibno, Jemar Alpha, Hiya Arabain and Najer Daud dreamt of becoming an imam but they all ended up in jail. They have been charged with the murder of a person they do not know.

Najer, arrested on Sept. 10, 2007, was first brought to the camp of the Western Command of the AFP in Puerto Princesa before he was transferred to the Southern Command in Zamboanga City.

“They [soldiers] hid us from our families for two months. We suffered all kinds of torture,” Najer said. At one time, Najer’s feet were chained, his body lifted and his shoulders leaning on a wooden table. The interrogation lasted for almost six hours.

In March 2008, they were transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa.

Continuing injustice

Both Kosair and Bimbas have been waiting for the decision of the local courts for years.

The last hearing on the case of Bimbas was conducted in September 2005. Kosair has been waiting since 2007.

In the case of Kosair, a teacher, one of the victims of the kidnapping incident they are being accused of, already testified in court that Kosair and his brothers were not among her captors.

Bimbas, on the other hand, said that justice is tilted against them. “We could not even produce our witnesses to testify about our innocence. They are in Mindanao and we are here. We have no means of bringing them here,” he said.

Bimbas said his high school teacher and his former classmates were willing to testify about his identity but could not do so due to financial constraints.

Meanwhile, the last hearing on the case of the seven students from Palawan was held just last month. A witness came forward to testify against them.

“We do not know him. I think he was paid to tell lies. His testimony is contradicting,” Najer said.

Because they came from poor families, they could not afford to hire private lawyers and were dependent on the services of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

All the detainees interviewed by said that to stop the beatings, they were forced to admit the crimes they did not commit. Kosair and Bimbas were minors at the time of their arrests.

Prison conditions

Away from their families, the Moro detainees suffer more with the sordid conditions in jail.

Kosair’s brother Baser went blind due to lack of medical attention. In 2003, Baser was diagnosed with diabetes. After the Bicutan siege on March 14, 2005, jail authorities stopped giving him insulin. He eventually lost his vision.

Meanwhile, Bimbas was one of those shot during the infamous Bicutan siege where 23 detainees were killed. He was hit on the upper part of his forehead and on his lower left limb. “They took me to the infirmary. Only after three days did they give me pain killers,” he related.

Bimbas said elements of the Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police (PNP) threw tear gas canisters at their detention cells and started indiscriminately firing at the detainees.

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